Coolest animal around. I tried to get some really graphic shots in Kenya, but these guys are really pretty skitish in the wild. No wonder, we have driven one species into extinction since 1800 or so. The quagga was originally classified as an individual species, Equus quagga, in 1788. Over the next fifty years or so, many other zebras were described by naturalists and explorers. Because of the great variation in coat patterns (no two zebras are alike), taxonomists were left with a great number of described "species", and no easy way to tell which of these were true species, which were subspecies, and which were simply natural variants.
Long before this confusion was sorted out, the quagga had been hunted to extinction for meat, hides, and to preserve feed for domesticated stock. The last wild quagga was probably shot in the late 1870s, and the last specimen in captivity, a mare, died on August 12, 1883 at the Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam. Because of the great confusion between different zebra species, particularly among the general public, the quagga had become extinct before it was realized that it appeared to be a separate species. There are three Species of Zebra. All inhabit different areas, all have different chromosome counts. There are subspecies in 2 of the types, only one Species in the third. The SUBspecies (ie "Breeds") can intermate and produce viable offspring (such as a Grants/Chapmans cross), but the different SPECIES cannot. A cross between a Grevy's and a Damaraland would be a sterile hybrid, and the striping pattern would give it away as a hybridized zebra. They are the Plains zebras (subspecies: Grants (Bohms), Damaraland, Chapmans, Selous, Burchells (and the extinct Quagga). Mountain Zebras have 2 sub-species, the Hartman Mountain Zebra and the Cape Mountain Zebra. The Grevy's, or "Abyssinian" is the third Species. There are no known Subspecies. This is a Grevy's Common in Kenya.
Attempts have been made to train zebras for riding since they have better resistance than horses to African diseases. However most of these attempts failed, due to the zebra's more unpredictable nature and tendency to panic under stress. For this reason, zebra-mules or zebroids (crosses between any species of zebra and a horse, pony, donkey or ass) are preferred over pure-bred zebras.
Lord Rothschild (famous involvement in the Balfour agreement, perhaps the most significant short document in world history, signed under mad King George) rode about London on his prize Zebra. (Equus burchelli).
The fourth Mughal emperor Jahangir (r.1605-27), commissioned a painting of the zebra. In this painting executed by Ustad Mansur, the zebra is shown with stirrups. In England, the zoological collector Lord Rothschild frequently used zebras to draw a carriage. In 1907, Rosendo Ribeiro, the first doctor in Nairobi, Kenya, used a riding zebra for house-calls. In the mid 1800s Governor George Grey imported zebras to New Zealand from his previous posting in South Africa, and used them to pull his carriage on his privately owned Kawau Island.
Captain Horace Hayes, in "Points of the Horse" (circa 1899) compared the usefulness of different zebra species. Hayes saddled and bridled a Mountain zebra in less than one hour, but was unable to give it a "mouth" during the two days it was in his possession. He noted that the zebra's neck was so stiff and strong that he was unable to bend it in any direction. Although he taught it to do what he wanted in a circus ring, when he took it outdoors he was unable to control it. He found the Burchell's zebra easy to break in and considered it ideal for domestication, as it was also immune to the bite of the tsetse fly. He considered the quagga well-suited to domestication due to being stronger, more docile and more horse-like than other zebras.